It was back in at the end of April when I last put pen to paper on this article and things have moved in the Light Heavyweight division since then, especially for Jimi Manuwa. Shogun Rua was the first potential opponent I had put in my article and that fight was signed for 8th November, but owing to an unfortunate injury, Manuwa was forced out of the biggest fight of his career. So as the “Posterboy” heals up I thought it would be a good opportunity to re-visit the Light Heavyweight division and try to best guest just who makes a viable opponent for Jimi Manuwa?
Glover Teixeira (22-4 MMA 5-2 UFC Ranked #6)
If this fight comes to fruition then the UFC need to hire good old Jim Ross to commentate it, “This is a Slobberknocker!”. Teixeria has recently struggled against Jones and Davis who proved too much for him on a wrestling front, something which Manuwa would certainly not be looking to exploit if these two got in the cage. What would stand out for me in this one would be who had the better cardio going into the fight as I think it would be a long grueling slugfest, which would ultimately favor the fighter with the better gas tank. And I’m torn as to who would win the cardio battle. Whilst Manuwa looks in great shape and is a physical specimen that sometimes is a fighters downfall when it comes to getting into the later stages of a fight. Glover was able to go the distance with Jon Jones and Phil Davis but its in the first round were we see the Brazilian do most damage. For me this is the most exciting proposition for Manuwa and poses the highest risk/reward for the “Posterboy”. Please Sean Shelby, just please!
Ovince St. Preux (17-6 MMA 5-1 UFC Ranked #9)
OSP recently stepped in to fill Manuwa’s shoes and in doing so produced a remarkable performance, stopping Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in just 34 seconds. For me this fight makes sense for the division and pits two guys on the cusp of making it into the top five of the division and gives the winner some real momentum to go out and get those “big fights”. The only thing potentially holding this one back is the momentum that OSP picked up in dismantling Shogun but I believe the result would have been the same if Manuwa was to have taken that fight. Confidence could play a huge factor in the fight and OSP would arguably be the more confident fighter going into that one given Jimi’s would be coming off an injury and a loss in his last fight. They say styles make fights and I think that both of these guys would be stubborn and look to prove that they had the more aggressive stand up style so the fans could be in for a real treat if this one was made.
Ryan Bader (18-4 MMA 11-4 UFC Ranked #7)
Ryan Bader is possibly not the most glamorous of opponents for Manuwa but in my mind is the one who would probably pose him with the biggest threat given his wrestling background. The one advantage that Manuwa would have however is his power and Bader’s inability to take big shots (as exploited against both Machida and Teixeira). Speed and athleticism I think I very closely contested between the two so I think the fight would fall down to the classic “Wrestler Vs Striker” dual. You would have to give the striking advantage to Manuwa although against Glover, Bader did shock everyone by standing and trading with him and did actually manage to rock Glover. I think it’s fair to say that Bader would hold the wrestling advantage and in my eyes has a very similar wrestling style to Kyle Kingsbury who was able to take down Manuwa twice in their fight. I feel that Bader would have more success in the explosive takedowns whereas takedowns from the clinch would be a lot harder for him to win given Manuwa’s strength. I wouldn’t be surprised if this fight was announced as Jimi’s next bout and for me I would love to see it, more so just to see how Jimi would cope with the wrestling aspect and Bader’s powerful right hand.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueria (21-6 MMA 4-3 UFC Ranked #13)
Whilst this may be a back step in terms of fighter rankings I feel that Manuwa would benefit with a win over a “Legend” of the sport and Nogueria definitely fits that bill. Also while fighters get judged off their last performance, for me Nogueria still has some fight left and prior to the mauling from Anthony Johnson, had wins over Ortiz and Evans. What would also be interesting in this one would be how Manuwa dealt with the BJJ of Nogueria if the fight hit the mat. Manuwa struggled with the ground control of Alexander Gustafsson so would be imperative for Manuwa that he improved his ground game if this fight was to be signed, which would only be a good thing for him. My only concern with this one would be whether or not we will see Nogueria back in the cage but I suspect a big of Brazilian pride will come over him and we will see him grace the Octagon at least one more time before hanging up the gloves.
So there is my breakdown of four potential opponents for Jimi Manuwa’s return. As always open to feedback/suggestions/comments on facebook at facebook.com/whoatv and on twitter @mmanarchy